Augusta Read Thomas


University Professor of Composition in the Department of Music and the College


Office: GoH 202
Phone: (773) 834-9935 or (617) 306-8112


August Read Thomas, born in 1964 in Glen Cove, New York, was the Mead Composer-in-Residence for Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1997 through 2006. In 2007, her Astral Canticle was one of the two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Music. The "Colors of Love" CD by Chanticleer, which features two of Thomas' compositions, won a Grammy award.

Thomas is a member of: the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the Advisory Committee of the Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia University; the Board of Trustees of the American Society for the Royal Academy of Music; the Eastman School of Music's National Council; as well as boards and advisory boards of several chamber music groups including the Ice Ensemble. She has been on the Board of Directors of the American Music Center since 2000. She was elected Chair of the Board of the American Music Center, a volunteer position that ran from 2005 to 2008. For the 2014-2015 academic year, Augusta was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar.

G. Schirmer, Inc. is the exclusive publisher of her music worldwide, and her discography includes 68 commercially recorded CDs.

Thomas played piano as a young child, starting private lessons at age four.  In third grade, she took up the trumpet and played for 14 years, attending Northwestern University as a trumpet performance major.  She played trumpet in brass quintet, chamber orchestra, orchestra, band, and Jazz band and she sang in choirs for many years.

Thomas was awarded fellowships from the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, and was a fellow for three years in the Harvard University Society of Fellows. 

Her music, which is regularly performed worldwide, has been conducted by: Christoph Eschenbach, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Mstislav Rostropovich, Seiji Ozawa, Leonard Slatkin, Oliver Knussen, David Robertson, Lorin Maazel, Sir Andrew Davis, Jiří Bĕlohlávek, Hans Graf, Marin Alsop, Cliff Colnot, Xian Zhang, Andrey Boreyko, William Boughton, Gil Rose, Gerard Schwarz, John Nelson, Joana Carneiro, Hans Vonk, Markus Stenz, Dennis Russell Davies, George Benjamin, Ludovic Morlot, Robert Trevino, Hannu Lintu, Josephine Lee, Michael Lewanski, Bradley Lubman and George Manahan among others.

Thomas received awards from the Siemens Foundation in Munich; ASCAP; BMI; National Endowment for the Arts (1994, 1992, 1988); American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; Koussevitzky Foundation; New York Foundation for the Arts; John W. Hechinger Foundation; Kate Neal Kinley Foundation; Columbia University (Bearns Prize); Naumburg Foundation; Fromm Foundation; Barlow Endowment; French International Competition of Henri Dutilleux; Rudolph Nissim Award from ASCAP; and the Office of Copyrights and Patents in Washington, D.C. awarded her its Third Century Prize.

Seven years after graduating from the Royal Academy of Music in London, Thomas was elected as Associate (ARAM, honorary degree), and in 2004 was elected a Fellow (the highest honor they bestow) of the Royal Academy of Music (FRAM, honorary degree). In 1998, she received the Distinguished Alumni Association Award from St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. In 1999, she won the Award of Merit from the President of Northwestern University, and a year later received The Alumnae Award from Northwestern University. Sigma Alpha Iota Music Fraternity initiated her as an Honorary Member in 1996.

Thomas also had the distinction of having her work performed more frequently in 2013-2014 than any other living composer, according to statistics from performing rights organization ASCAP. 

Recent Courses Taught

  • Imagination & Expertise in Composition (Music 367)
  • Private Composition Lessons (Music 240 and Music 340)
  • Introduction to Composition (Music 261)
  • Senior Research in Music (Music 299)

Recent premiers included:

  • The Boston Symphony commissioned CELLO CONCERTO #3 for cellist Lynn Harrell, which premiered in March 2013 with Christoph Eschenbach conducting.
  • The National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing commissioned a HARVEST DRUM for orchestra, which premiered in March 2013.
  • The Koussevitzsky Music Foundation at the Library of Congress commissioned EARTH ECHOES, Homage to Gustav Mahler, for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, with Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano soloist and Nathan Gunn, baritone soloist, which premiered in Carnegie Hall on October 11, 2012.
  • The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at The University of Notre Dame commissioned RESOUNDING EARTH, a composition featuring 120 bells (collected by Gusty) from a wide variety of cultures and historical periods, which premiered in October 2012 by Third Coast Percussion.

[Bells can be used to celebrate grand occasions, hold sacrificial rites, keep a record of events, give the correct time, celebrate births and weddings, mark funerals, caution a community, enhance any number of religious ceremonies, and are even hung around the necks of animals. As carriers of history and culture, bells of numerous shapes, sizes, types, decorative patterns, weights, functions and cultural connotations move and inspire me. RESOUNDING EARTH can be heard as a United-Nations-of-Resonances.]

Six works currently on her drafting table include:

  • SAXOPHONE CONCERTO for Fred Hemke and the New Haven Symphony to premiere on February 27, 2014, and to be recorded to commercial CD on February 28, 2014. (Read more)
  • CONCERTO FOR SOLO BASSOON AND ENSEMBLE commissioned by the Danish Chamber Players (Storströms Kammerensemble), Gunnar Eckhoff, solo bassoon - to premiere on June 4, 2014 in Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen, at 19:30. (
  • OF BEING IS A BIRD (EMILY DICKINSON SETTINGS) for Soprano and Chamber orchestra, commissioned by Wigmore Hall, will premiere in London on July 7, 2015.
  • UTAH SYMPHONY: EOS for Orchestra, Thierry Fischer conducting the Utah Symphony. Premiere performances were in week of February 16, 2015.
  • HELIX SPIRALS for String Quartet: Premiere performances by the PARKER STRING QUARTET were in February 2015. Premiere location: Harvard University.

 New Work for Percussion Quartet – members of the Boston Symphony Percussion Section Premiere July 2015 to celebrate Tanglewood’s anniversary.

Selected Works:

  • Absolute Ocean for solo soprano, harp obbligato and orchestra (2008)
  • Astral Canticle, Double Concerto for Flute, Violin, and Orchestra (2005) - One of two finalists for 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music
  • Aurora for piano and orchestra (1999)
  • Canticle Weaving, Trombone Concerto #2, for trombone and orchestra (2003)
  • Ceremonial for orchestra (1999)
  • Cello Concerto #3 (2013)
  • Chanting to Paradise for solo soprano, chorus and orchestra (2002)
  • Flash for chorus and orchestra (2011)
  • Floating Temples for chorus and orchestra (2011)
  • Helios Choros a ballet triptych for orchestra (2006-2007)
  • In My Sky at Twilight for solo soprano and ensemble (2002)
  • Jubilee for orchestra (2010)
  • Orbital Beacons (Concerto for Orchestra) (1998)
  • Of Paradise and Light for string orchestra (2010)
  • Prayer Bells for orchestra (2001)
  • Radiant Circles for orchestra (2010)
  • Ritual Incantations for cello and orchestra (1999) (Cello Concerto #2)
  • Terpsichore’s Dream a ballet for chamber orchestra (2007)
  • Words of the Sea for orchestra (1995-96)
  • Violin Concerto #3 for violin and orchestra (2008)
  • Capricious Angels for eight players (2009)
  • ...A Circle Around the Sun... for piano trio (2000)
  • Carillon Sky for solo violin and small ensemble (2005)
  • Dancing Helix Rituals for violin, clarinet and piano (2007)
  • Euterpe’s Caprice, a two-minute fanfare for solo flute (2008)
  • Mansueto Tribute, “double helix” for two violins (2011)
  • Passion Prayers for solo cello; fl, cl, vn, pno, hp, perc (1999)
  • Pilgrim Soul for English horn and two violins (2011)
  • Toft Serenade for violin and piano (or a version for viola and piano) (2006)
  • Traces for solo piano (2006)
  • Six Piano Etudes for solo piano (1997)
  • The Rewaking for chorus (2005)
  • Love Songs for chorus (1997)
  • The Rub of Love for chorus (1995)
  • Two E. E. Cummings Songs for chorus (2008)
  • Violin Concerto #2 – Carillon Sky (2006)